Former “super-head” at borough special school jailed for fraud

A former headteacher who fraudulently pocketed more than £23,000 from the coffers of a borough special school has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard David Bishop-Rowe undertook lucrative work advising other heads when he should have been behind his desk at Sutton School in Holly Hall, Dudley.

He was one of six specially selected “super-heads” across the country to form part of a taskforce designed to improve school leadership nationally. The cash for the work, which took place during school hours, should have been paid to the school in Scotts Green Close to recompense for its missing headteacher.

But Bishop-Rowe instead ordered the invoices - which came to just over £23,000 - to be paid into the bank account of his limited company Education Development Consultancy Ltd.

The headteacher continued to be paid his full salary of over £91,000 a year by the school despite not being there for up to three days a week while carrying out the work between 2011 and 2013. The court heard he also convinced school governors to agree to two bonus salary uplift payments totalling nearly £50,000 during the period in question, in which the headteacher bought a Spanish villa and a £4,000 piano.

Bishop-Rowe, of The Crescent, Cradley Heath, had denied three counts of fraud – two for abusing a position of trust and the other by making false representations - between 2011 and 2013. But a jury took just 24 minutes to find the 67-year-old unanimously guilty on all counts following a trial in October. He appeared back before the court last week for sentencing.

The court was told Dudley Council would now be starting proceedings with a view to reclaiming all of the money back through the Proceeds of Crime Act. Recorder Simon Ash KC, sentencing Bishop-Rowe, said:

"You abused your position as headteacher of Sutton School through diverting to your bank account a large sum of money that should have gone to the school. You have shown, in my view, no significant evidence of remorse.

"You were not in any financial difficulty when you committed these offences. You owned your own house, and I have seen evidence that you bought another property in Spain around the time of the offending."

Councillor Ruth Buttery, cabinet member for children’s services, said: "David Bishop-Rowe was a highly thought of ‘super-head’ with a long and distinguished career in education.

"He occupied a position of trust and respect within the school and local community. It is truly disappointing to see that he used this position of responsibility and influence for his own gain, rather than for the benefit of the school he was leading.

"I thank the court, judge and jurors for this decision. I would like to thank the council's corporate fraud team and governors of Sutton School for their relentless pursuit of the truth over so many years.

"The school is now being expertly led by Mr Ian Curnow and holds a ‘Good’ rating with Ofsted. The resilience of the governors, staff and students is to be praised as the students thrive in a safe, welcoming and enriching environment which meets their learning needs and prepares them for adulthood."

Bishop-Rowe resigned from his position at the school in 2014 after 12 years in the top job. Investigations into financial mismanagement and professional misconduct began after the offences came to light. 

He was banned from teaching indefinitely by the National College for Teaching & Leadership after an independent panel hearing in 2017.

Sutton School teaches around 180 pupils aged 11-16 with special educational needs.

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